Catholic Dictionary




The churches in communion with the See of Canterbury. It originated with Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy, 1534, declaring "the king's majesty justly and rightfully is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church of England." But the complete rupture with Catholicism did not come until 1563, when the Elizabethan Parliament made the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion obligatory on all citizens under heavy penalties.

Since then the Thirty-nine Articles have played a major role in shaping the doctrine of Anglicanism. Among typical features, the Bible is declared to contain all that is necessary for salvation, general councils are said not to be infallible, transubstantiation is denied, and the civil ruler is given authority over the Church. To this day the Church of England retains its State Establishment.

Even more influential has been the Book of Common Prayer. This is the official service book of the Church of England and contains, among other things, the forms for the administration of the sacraments and the Ordinal. Mainly the creation of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Book of Common Prayer has been the single most cohesive force in shaping the world Anglicanism. Recently the subject of much controversy, a revised edition was issued in 1928 but, because it failed to get the approval of Parliament, has no formal authority.